The Union Ministry of Minority Affairs, which initially proposed to set up universities for minorities, will now set up six Central universities in “areas predominantly inhabited by minorities” across the country, including one in Srirangapatna in Karnataka.

According to an official press release, the Ministry of Minority Affairs has taken up the matter with the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development for Central legislation to establish six Central universities in Murshidabad in West Bengal, Mallapuram in Kerala, Kishanganj in Bihar, Ajmer in Rajasthan and Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, besides Srirangapatna.

The decision to establish the six universities comes in the wake of a recommendation made by a committee of experts headed by Sukhadeo Thorat to set up the universities in “areas predominantly inhabited by minority population so that more and more youth from minority communities can join the higher educational streams”, the statement said.

Meanwhile, sources in the expert committee told The Hindu that the proposal to establish minority universities, as originally proposed by the Ministry of Minority Affairs, was not legally feasible and referred to cases pending before the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court challenging the minority institution tag given to Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia University. “Hence, a recommendation was made to establish Central universities in places where there is large population of minorities, through an Act of Parliament,” sources added.

The sources cited the example of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, a Central university established through an Act of Parliament, which benefits members of the minority community even though it is not a minority university.

The expert committee of educationists, which submitted the report to the Ministry of Minority Affairs in the last week of February 2013, also comprised Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Milla Islamia Najeeb Jung, Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University Lt. Gen. (retd.) Zameeruddin Shah, Vice-Chancellor of the Central University of Himachal Pradesh Furqan Qamar, Rajya Sabha member B. Mungekar, the former Vice-Chancellor of the Central University of Karnataka A.M. Pathan and the former Karnataka Chief Secretary and former Minister J. Alexander.

The proposal to set up minority universities across the country, including one at Srirangapatna named after Tipu Sultan, had sparked off a row in Karnataka with the then BJP government strongly opposing the move. Though sources in the committee said that land for setting up the Central universities would be provided by the State governments concerned, a release issued by the Ministry of Minority Affairs said land for establishment of Central universities in Murshidabad, Malappuram and Kishanganj was being arranged by Aligarh Muslim University.

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